Will Preston

When in Rome…get someone else to do your dirty work for you

by on Apr.20, 2011, under Review, Video Games

I’m not the one to complain about the atmosphere of Renaissance-era Italy, but there is a reason why Thomas Cook does four night breaks and not four month ones. In Assassin’s Creed 2, I pretty much got the jist of this time period, with its fancy architecture and snazzy puff pants. So there should be no need for this to be covered further. Well, not unless there is something really important that was left out. And what could be more important than minor plot progression and a surprisingly good tacked on multiplayer?

Ubisoft's nomination for most obvious location

Yes, it seems that the Assassins Creed series is going to hang around the life of Ezio Auditore until the number 87 bus arrives to take us to the next major period of human history. Ah well, better find something to do in the meantime I suppose. Following from the last game, Ezio escapes the Vatican in Rome after unleashing a massive spoiler that I don’t have the heart to ruin for everyone. Aren’t I nice. This leads to his home villa being turned into a rather Italian language version of Helms Deep, which provides the game with a well timed revenge plot. Don’t worry though, the sneaking comes later. Ezio and co set up new digs in Rome and sets about renovating the city without a permit whilst training chimpanzee sounding assassins, just in case he gets a stitch during a particularly routine contract.

Assassins Creed Brotherhood almost a dull carbon copy of the previous game if it wasn’t for some redeemable features. First off is the combat. Two major things have been overhauled for the 16th century assassin. Instead of taunting armed guards until they swing at you, Ezio can take the Eric Cartman method of kicking the opponent in the balls to effectively drop their guard. Seriously, the amount of times I abused this new skill, it was little wonder why the guard force didn’t research into some kind of armoured spiked codpiece to come between my toes and their dangly parts. The other good fighting technique is also a bit of a handy timesaver. Instead of having to work away at each person until you can execute them, you can perform chain executions. Providing you don’t get hit in between of course. It does get a bit embarrassing when the rest of the group of attackers stand and watch whilst I dervish my way through their skulls, as if they have come to accept death at my unforgiving hand.

Remember, this is technically a stealth game...

Alright, so the AI hasn’t improved that much since the last game. In fact, they have done bugger all with it, which is a shame. One thing that seems to feel a bit lacking are the graphics. Maybe it’s just me, but the visuals in Brotherhood seem to be a bit washed out in comparison, almost as if they’ve been left in the hot Italian sun between releases and it’s yet to hydrate itself in time for the launch. The same could be said about the horse riding. That sun must have tired them out I guess as I can only manage a modest gallop instead of the Lone Ranger levels of speed that the last game seemed to spoil me with.

But, ironically, one of the games new improved features could be its downfall. I mentioned the chimpanzee sounding assassins earlier. Well after a certain point in the game, you start your own Rome based creed, as if starting something like this is as easy as setting up a group on Facebook. You find assassin’s on the street (as you do) and then assign them to missions, which train them up in the process. When not dealing with cross-European slaughter, you can whistle the assassin’s in to dispatch the enemies for you, which can take all the challenge out of the game. Why bother burning calories to move the thumbstick AND press the X button to take out one person, when multiple enemies can be annihilated by pressing the left bumper and walking away. The text adventure style mission management of the assassins is a bit addictive, although it doesn’t really offer too much of a challenge and becomes tedious once you’ve mastered it. Not that it takes long to master.

I try not to think what could be going on here

And then we come to the multiplayer. It’s never a surprise for major games series to cave in and design an online multiplayer mode for their fans to screech at each other on. Brotherhood’s multiplayer redeems the game by being original and clever…and based on an idea that I had around ten years ago. But I’m not going to sue. Funnily enough, it’s the multiplayer mode that features more stealth than the single player for once. You assume the role of one of eight types of people and are then thrust into a crowded place where all the NPCs are one of the eight types of people to play as. And you’re mission? To find your target and kill them, but before you are killed yourself by another assassin. It’s pure gaming deception at its finest. You gain points for killing the right person, with bonus points awarded for stealthy stabs, rather than my favourite method of running and screaming. Assassinating take a lot of skill, considering that there is a lot more pressure to blend in and throw potential pursuers a red herring. It’s tense, tactical and tickles me every time I get my man.

Whilst it’s not really that much of an improvement, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is worth the full price for the multiplayer alone. The single player is restricted to one city and can be licked in a week of intense play, despite the abundance of side missions and hidden items scattering the streets. Now where is that time travelling bus? I was hoping to get off at my next stop: Victorian London.

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